It started last night in Arizona, when D-Backs pitcher Edwin Jackson drilled Chris Carpenter in the left wrist with a high, inside fastball. It was the second inning, Jackson had struggled through the first, and Carpenter is as easy an out as can be found in the St. Louis lineup. It almost certainly wasn’t intentional.
Still, Carpenter felt the need to exchange with Jackson some ideas about the propriety of such things as he made his way to first base. (Part of it had to do with the fact that Jackson had already drilled Ryan Ludwick, the second hitter of the game, an inning earlier.)
Carpenter explained his thoughts to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I hit .100. It’s not like I can hit. Throw the ball down and away. Throw a slider, whatever it is. It’s different if you’re Carlos Zambrano, Adam Wainwright, Dan Haren, guys that can hit. You throw 95 miles per hour, chucking balls up high, never mind you can’t control it. Come on. He’s missing by three feet. It’s not right.”
“He wasn’t throwing at him. I know that,” said Tony La Russa. “But the fact is he was throwing up. That’s dangerous. If you can’t control it, then pitch down.”
All of this is just prelude to Carpenter’s response. Rather than taking it out on Jackson once his counterpart came to the plate, Carpenter, racing to second one pitch later on a ground ball, went out of his way to throw a shoulder at second baseman Kelly Johnson, who had already released the ball on the front end of an inning-ending double-play. (Watch it all here.)
Taking out a middle infielder in response to being drilled is classic basepath retaliation, but it’s rarely seen from a pitcher (who can usually deal with things more effectively from the mound, and who’s not necessarily comfortable running the bases).
Another Code cropped up when the benches emptied around the spot of the incident, as shortstop Stephen Drew started yelling at Carpenter. Instead of jawing back, however, the St. Louis pitcher made a beeline to the dugout through milling players, leaving his teammates to pick up the pieces.
The primary reason Carpenter didn’t draw more notice for this is that he picked up his hat and glove, and immediately returned to the field to take his warm-up pitches, effectively sending the message that, in his mind, anyway, the incident was over. (There’s also the notion that the repercussions of getting tossed in the second inning, should he have stuck around to fight, would have crippled the St. Louis bullpen for days to come.)
Because it was a close game until the top of the ninth, there’s no way to tell if Arizona agreed. The teams next meet June 11, in St. Louis.